Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Readers' reports

Well, my manuscript has been, since fall, and so very unexpectedly, with that very cool big UP. Finally today, both readers' reports were available.

The first reader could not enthuse enough about the project, saying various complimentary things, and indeed offering only one or two small and very do-able suggestions for enriching the book. I'm tempted to use the word "gushy," so relative-superlative-filled was this reader's response (stuff like "best X in my 30 years of working in the field," etc.) All very heady and gratifying, to be sure.

The second reader reported that s/he had stopped reading somewhere in chapter 2, unable to continue because I clearly have no idea how Equine Studies actually works, and said that there may be a good book somewhere in the project, but it will have to be substantially revised/ rethought in order to reveal that good book.

Ten years ago, that second report would have devastated me. Today, not so much, in part because I'm getting more and more to see that responses to academic writing are as subjective as responses to creative writing--and in part because I'm grateful to know what points I need to clarify and what terms I need to work through more carefully in order to ensure that my book is more persuasive and more solidly built. Seriously: I'd rather keep working and produce a stronger book.

The cool editor impressed me by hir equanimity about the whole thing: s/he asked me to think over the negative report, and to respond to its points, considering honestly whether the reader had misunderstood me or whether I ought to put some revision time in before s/he sends it out to a third reader. S/he said that s/he was inclined to put more weight on the positive review, in part because it was thorough (including having, you know, read the whole manuscript), but that I ought nevertheless to reflect on the critiques of the negative one. To be frank, the fact that this editor still wants to continue the conversation, and to send the manuscript to a third reader, is completely beyond my expectation. You may recall that I never thought this particular press would be interested in my book, because it doesn't necessarily announce itself as a Big Theoretical Book. So this is all gravy as far as I'm concerned.

Tomorrow, I'll print the negative report, and I'll start to look critically at my opening chapter to see how I can address/ clarify the points that seem problematic. I am nothing but the beneficiary here, no matter what happens: it's pretty cool that two scholars in my field have devoted serious scrutiny to my book. I'm feeling grateful. Not yet jazzed or motivated or all eye-of-the-tiger (too near the flagging end of the term for such frivolities), but grateful.


Flavia said...


As you know, this is much my own situation. I have no idea why my editor has been so warmly & continuously interested in my book, but s/he has, and that's a lovely feeling whatever results. (Which isn't to say that my blood pressure doesn't spike every time I open my work email, lest there be some newer news.)

Many congrats on the excellent first review, which is clearly the one that matters, and fingers crossed for Reader #3.

(Also, sorry we didn't cross paths at RSA! My flight on Friday actually *was* terribly delayed, and I imagine you were out with the Things once I was around.)

feMOMhist said...

Wonderful news, and yes a harsh critical reader is sometimes a gift, once you get past the annoyances (love the "I stopped reading" umm isn't that your role as MS reviewer - to read?).

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Congrats on the good review. The second one? Mine it for useful bits, then keep in mind that the person only read a couple of chapters. (Rude, methinks.) But it's great that things are progressing and that you've got a third reader on the horizon. :)

WTG Homesteader said...

Congratulations on the good review. And I'm amazed at your really respectful and grateful feelings toward the second reviewer. If I were you, I know I'd be annoyed. And I can't help wondering what the editor thinks of this reviewer who couldn't even manage to do hir job, which is, actually, to read and review things. Class A dork who will get hirs, I'm sure.

You rock!

Lisa B. said...

Good for you that you can take such a productive, strong view of the second reader. I would be annoyed. And it sounds very encouraging overall--so delighted for you.

Sulpicia said...

Congratulations! That's all very encouraging, and the critical review should be helpful too, though it'd've been more so if it covered the whole book. Great that it was coupled with such a positive report, and that your reaction to the other is so constructive. Yay!